"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Gates Solution to Political Deadlock: More Technocrats in Charge from ALEC

At the heart of this generation's retread argument for post-partisanship in all things political, there is another, though more dangerous, version of rule by the experts lurking there.  Society engineered by scientific managers or "experts" was tried a hundred years ago, but since Bill Gates doesn't read history, apparently we must go down that dollar-strewn road again, this time with Gates playing Andrew Carnegie and Barack Obama playing Woodrow Wilson.  We may hope that the first half of this century turns out better than that the first half of the last, when our determination to create a smooth running and perfectible industrial society got rolling with eugenics and then culminated with the Holocaust.

Today the New York Times offered Gates a 6+ minute free infomercial hosted by America's most prominent Readers Digest version of an intellectual, Tom Friedman.  It's well worth viewing, for in it we see the enabler role of the New York Times in foisting a patronizing, officious, and saccharine version of political reality, and we see clearly, too, the degree of subterfuge layered with cluelessness by the aging geek billionaire oligarch, Bill Gates.

In order to offer his solution to our every problem, Gates, in the video, must first pretend he does not know why 60 percent of Americans think their future will not be as good their past.  What is it, he wonders.  It's a paradox, he whines syrupily. After all, America is still the land of more Twitterers per acre than any place on Earth, and America remains the undisputed crowned home of the App, where 15 minutes of fame is still within everyone's reach who is connected enough to attract the fly blows of Wall Street.

So snap out of it, America.  What we need are not political partisans, who more often stand on stacks of cash than they do on principle. We don't even need principles, boys and girls.  What we need are the facts, converted to numbers, and unstained by belief or passion:  we need more technocrats running America, and we need to get the politics out of democracy.

And what we need on top of that are more 501s like the non-partisan ALEC, which garners support (with tax breaks included) from oligarchs like Gates for spreading the privatization of democracy message throughout these United States.  Let's get the politics out of politics! Oh, I got carried away--the video does not include that part.  You have to get that from real facts, not the ones manufactured by fools who believe that others are as foolish, too.

From Crooks and Liars:
. . . .Now we have this grant from the Gates Foundation to ALEC, of all things. It isn't a small grant, by any stretch. $376,635 to be paid over a period of 22 months. That's about $17,000 per month dropping into the coffers of one of the most evil organizations in the country. The grant description reads as follows:
Purpose: to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement . . .
If you are wondering what ALEC is, look below.  This clip below is from the most recent issue of Phi Delta Kappan. Do take the time, please, to read it.  With this kind of article, it could be time to re-join PDK, which the last time I check had sold its soul to the Business Roundtable:
A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible. Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

ALEC’s own “whack-a-mole” strategy also reveals the group’s ultimate goal. Every gardener who has ever had to deal with a mole knows that the animals undermine and ultimately destroy a garden. ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.

What is ALEC?

Technically, ALEC is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. It describes itself as a nonpartisan membership organization for those who share a common belief in “limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.”

More than 2,000 state lawmakers pay ALEC $100 for a two-year membership. While listed as nonpartisan, ALEC’s members definitely skew to the conservative end of the political spectrum. For example, of the 114 listed members of the group’s Education Task Force, 108 are Republicans, and only six are Democrats.

Corporations, foundations, and “think tanks” can join ALEC, too. They pay up to $25,000 in yearly dues and can spend more to sponsor the council’s meetings. Corporate members can also donate to each state’s scholarship fund, which reimburses legislators who travel to meetings. The scholarships can exceed the amount of a legislator’s dues. Corporate members also can pay from $3,000 to $10,000 for a seat on a task force.

ALEC operates through nine task forces, each cochaired by a corporate member and a legislative member. Task forces are divided by subject and bring together conservative policy makers with corporate leaders to develop model legislation. In order for a proposal to become model legislation, both the public and private sides of the committee must agree—granting considerable power to the corporate side. Elected officials then take the model bills back to their states to introduce them as their own. Only legislators who are members may access the model legislation. It is a very efficient mechanism for corporations to exercise political power—and they have.. . . .

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